lunedì 27 febbraio 2017

The Forever Season

It’s Monday and I wish it were Sunday! But this is anyway more bearable than what Arcovazzi’s wife feels upon seeing him and how much he is just him. So don’t mix with them (since they are not worth your time and your life!) and confidently jump onto the Associazione Culturale “Il Delta della Luna”’s carpet-dance!

domenica 26 febbraio 2017

Are we playing flying crowns?

谭中怡 (Tán Zhōngyí) – Dronavalli Harika
Knockout Women’s World Chess Championship Tournament; tie-break game 3 (10+10); Tehran, February 25, 2017
6k1/7p/2p5/1p2N3/1P2R3/4Q1P1/6PK/3r1q2 w - - 3 58

Position after 57. ... Qf5-f1

White to move and mate in five – at most

Here is the daily quiz of and is devoted to the Knockout Women’s World Chess Championship Tournament finalist 谭中怡 (Tán Zhōngyí), who, in her 3rd tie-break superrapid game (10+10) against Dronavalli Harika, from the position shown in the diagram, was able to “match-mate” Black’s lonely King in only four moves: 58. Rg4+ Kh8. The diagram stipulation would have been indeed fulfilled after 58. ... Kf8 59. Qc5+ Rd6 60. Qxd6+ Re8 61. Rg8+ Qf8 62. Rxf8 mate. 59. Nf7+ Qxf7 60. Qe5+ 1 : 0. For mate follows.

Dronavalli Harika’s grandmother following with royal composure the superrapid tie-break games. Photo © David Llada.

红色娘子军 (The Red Detachment of Women)
On February 15, 2017 at the invitation of the Organizing Committee of the Asia-Pacific Triennial of Performing Arts, 108 dancers of the National Ballet of China performed “The Red Detachment of Women”, one of the twentieth century's most striking cultural icons, at the Melbourne’s State Theater. Created and premiered in 1964, “The Red Detachment of Women” fuses the athleticism and rigour of Chinese ballet with a stylish and colour-saturated design and striking original score.

Set in the 1930s on the lush tropical island of 海南 (Hǎinán), “The Red Detachment of Women” is based on the stories of an all-female company of China’s Red Army. A peasant girl who has escaped the clutches of a tyrannical landlord joins the Red Detachment brigade and leads them to defeat her former tormentor and liberate the people. Photo:

The Importance of Not Being Arcovazzi
Asghar Farhadi, director of The Salesman, tells London protest that global reaction to U.S. travel ban has become powerful movement

The Iranian director behind Oscar-nominated film The Salesman told about 10,000 protesters in London that solidarity against Donald Trump’s travel ban holds the power to “stand up to fascism, be victorious in the face of extremism”. [Read more].
The public screening of The Salesman in London on Sunday was intended to be a show of unity and strength against Donald Trump’s travel ban. Photo: Jack Taylor/Getty Images.


“The knockout format is really cruel”, 谭中怡 (Tán Zhōngyí) told 重庆晚报 (Chóngqìng Evening News). “[Yesterday] it took seven games to determine the outcome of the tie-break. Harika had great chances of winning, but unfortunately, she did not take them. I saw her expression after I won, and since I shared with her what it might feel like to be in her shoes, I really felt sorry for her”.
As for the final with Anna Muzychuk from Ukraine – who can rely upon the unconditional support of the Slavic (especially pro-American) chess populations – 重庆 (Chóngqìng)’s Woman Grandmaster showed tranquility and strength: “I have no idea where I will go, only that I will go tomorrow”.
And indeed, regardless of whether she wins or loses, 谭中怡 (Tán Zhōngyí) can well be happy with what she’s accomplished so far.
The other finalist, meanwhile, came all the way up without never needing to play a single tie-break. But as Leontxo García writes on his El País column, “Despite the fact that Muzychuk is clearly favourite, it’s likely that 谭中怡 (Tán Zhōngyí) does not suffer any psychological inferiority as their results are perfectly balanced in the four games played so far. The Chinese won their first game at the 15th World Youth Chess Championship Girls Under-10 in Oropesa del Mar, Spain in 2000. The Ukrainian took her revenge by winning their game at the 17th World Youth Chess Championship Girls Under-12 in Heraklion, Greece in 2002. The other two games ended in a draw, both being played in the Women’s Grand Prix series in the Chinese cities of 深圳 (Shēnzhèn) and 成都 (Chéngdū), respectively in 2011 and 2016. However, besides Muzychuk’s superior theoretical strength, the fact that she never played a single tie-break so far, could be a decisive factor in terms of accumulated fatigue”.

A Nap in a Lap

北京 (Běijīng), China: A vendor takes a nap from selling gourd products on his stall at the 十里河天娇市场 (Shílǐhé Tiānjiāo Cultural Products Market), which is set to close in March. Photo: 吴宏 (Wú Hóng)/EPA.

Common Sense Not Needed

Grandmaster 余少腾 (Yú Shǎoténg), head coach of the Chinese women's team participating in the surreal Knockout Women’s World Chess Championship Tournament in Tehran, Iran, exchanged some impressions with 梓沫 (Zǐ Mò) of about the fast and furious climb of 谭中怡 (Tán Zhōngyí), the most veiled of the Chinese pretenders and China’s last hope to hold the Knockout crown and eventually negotiate a “royal dignity pact” with the “Warlords” which may allow to resuscitate both the Queen and the Queendom.
“Today’s games were too unpredictable and subject to ups and downs, and 谭中怡 (Tán Zhōngyí) was very lucky to qualify for the final”, 余少腾 (Yú Shǎoténg) said. “Nevertheless, the tie-break games reflected all her excellent qualities in rapidplay, such as resilience, tenacity, and psychological endurance. Her opponent in the final, Anna Muzychuk, is notoriously very strong. I hope 谭中怡 (Tán Zhōngyí) may have a good rest tomorrow, so she can play at her best in the final”.

谭中怡 (Tán Zhōngyí) as Joan of Arc

sabato 25 febbraio 2017

A Day with Aeroflot

余泱漪 (Yú Yāngyī) – Denis Rimovich Khismatullin
15th Aeroflot Open; Moscow, February 24, 2017
Sicilian Defence B23

1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 a6 3. g3 b5 4. Bg2 Bb7 5. d3 e6 6. Nh3 b4 7. Ne2 d5 8. e5 Nc6 9. f4 Nh6. Very similar consequences may arise from 9. ... Nge7 10. 0-0 Nf5 11. g4 Nh4 12. Ng3 Nxg2 13. Kxg2 Qd7 14. Qe1 0-0-0 15. a3 a5 16. axb4 axb4 17. Kg1 f6 18. c3 d4 19. c4 Re8 20. Qe2 f5 21. Bd2 g6 22. Kf2 Be7 23. Ke1 Kc7 24. Kf2 Ra8 25. Ng1 Na5 26. h3 h5 27. gxh5 gxh5 28. Nf3 h4 29. Nh1 Nb3 30. Rab1 Qc6 31. Kg2 Rag8+ 32. Kh2 Rg6 33. Ng5 Rhg8 34. Rg1 Bxg5 35. Rxg5 Qf3 36. Re1 Rxg5 37. fxg5 Qxe2+ 38. Rxe2 Nxd2 39. Rxd2 Rxg5 40. b3 Kd7 0 : 1 Mack – Hillarp Persson, 35th Guernsey International Chess Festival, Guernsey 2009. 10. Nf2 Nf5 11. 0-0 Qb6 12. c3 Be7 13. g4? Nh4⩱ 14. Bh1 h5! 15. g5 f6. Grandmaster Rafael Duailibe Leitão much prefers 15. ... g6⩱, apparently not too convinced by Black’s following Pawn sacrifice. 16. exf6 gxf6 17. Ng3 fxg5 18. fxg5 0-0-0! 19. Qe2. As a matter of fact, it seems a loss of time. After 19. Re1! (Leitão) 19. ... e5 20. Nxh5 Kb8 21. Qg4 Ng6 the same position of the actual game occurs, but with the difference that the White Rook is on e1 (White has magically gained a move!). 19. ... e5 20. Nxh5 Kb8 21. Qg4 Ng6. Black’s attacking prospects more than compensate for the Pawn. 22. Nf6 e4! Leitão recommends 22. ... Bc8!∓, but, indeed, Black’s second positional Pawn sacrifice appears very powerful. 23. dxe4 Nce5 24. Qg3 Bd6 25. h3 Qc7 26. Rd1 Nd7! 27. Qf3 Nxf6 28. gxf6 dxe4 29. Qg4 Rhg8 30. Kf1 Nf4 31. Qf5

31. ... e3! Another convincing line is 31. ... Rg1+!? 32. Kg1 Ne2+ 33. Kg2 e3+ 34. Ne4 Ng3−+ (Leitão’s analysis). 32. Bxe3 Bxh1? Black misses the most forcing 32. ... Rg1+! 33. Kxg1 Ne2+ 34. Kf1 Ng3+ winning heavy material. 33. f7? Returning the favour. Best was 33. Rxd6 Bg2+ 34. Ke1 Qxd6 35. Qxf4 Qxf4 35. Bxf4+ Kc8∓ (Leitão’s analysis). 33. ... Bg2+ 34. Ke1 Qe7! 35. Ng4 Rxg4! 0 : 1.

The Ultimate Shoedown

Hebron, West Bank: A Palestinian demonstrator throws a shoe at a poster of Donald Trump in a protest against the U.S. president’s support for Israel. Photo: Hazem Bader/AFP/Getty Images.

Boxing legend’s 44-year-old son detained and questioned about religion after flying back to U.S. from Jamaica, lawyer says. [Read more].
Fatal attraction: Malcom X and Muhammad Ali in 1964. Photo: Jack Kanthal/Associated Press.

Don’t feel sorry for me.

Muhammad Ali

The War After Armageddon

谭中怡 (Tán Zhōngyí) – Dronavalli Harika
Knockout Women’s World Chess Championship Tournament; tie-break game 2 (25+10); Tehran, February 25, 2017
Queen’s Gambit Declined D53

谭中怡 (Tán Zhōngyí) questions her fate in the 2nd (Rapid) tie-break game which she needs absolutely to win, having lost the first-one. 1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bg5 Be7 5. e3 Nbd7 6. Nf3 h6 7. Bh4 0-0 8. Qc2 c5 9. Rd1 Qa5 10. cxd5 Nxd5 11. Bxe7 Nxe7 12. Be2 Nf6 13. 0-0 cxd4 14. Nxd4!? Here is where they started playing on their own. In So – Kramnik, Grand Chess Tour YourNextMove Rapid, Leuven 2016 was seen 14. Rxd4 Nc6 15. Rd2 Bd7 16. Rfd1 Rfd8 17. Qb3 Rab8 18. a3 a6 19. Bd3 Be8 20. Bb1 Rxd2 21. Nxd2 Ne5 22. Nc4 Nxc4 23. Qxc4 Bc6 24. Qd4 Rc8 25. h3 Qh5 26. Rd2 Qg5 27. f3 e5 28. Qd3 e4 29. fxe4 Re8 30. Qd4 Nd7 31. Rf2 Ne5 32. Ba2 Rd8 33. Nd5 Bxd5 34. exd5 Rd6 35. Bb1 g6 36. Be4 Qe7 37. Bf3 Rd8 38. Bg4 Qc7 39. Rf1 h5 40. Be2 Qd6 41. e4 Rc8 42. Bd3 Kg7 43. Qe3 b5 44. Kh1 Rc7 45. Qf4 f6 46. Qd2 Qc5 47. Bb1 g5 48. Qe2 h4 49. Bd3 ½ : ½. 14. ... e5 15. Ndb5 Bf5 16. Qb3 Be6 17. Bc4 Bxc4 18. Qxc4 a6 19. Nd6 b5 20. Qb3 Qc7 21. Rd2 Nc8 22. Rfd1 Nxd6 23. Rxd6 Rfd8 24. Qa3 Rxd6 25. Qxd6 Qxd6 26. Rxd6 b4 27. Na4. 27. Nxd5 Nxd5 28. Rxd5 Rc8 also looks quite drawish. 27. ... Ne4 28. Rd1 Rc8 29. f3 Nf6 30. Rd2 Kf8 31. Kf2 Ke7 32. e4 Rc6 33. b3 Nd7 34. Nb2 f6 35. h4 h5 36. Nd1 Rd6 37. Ke2 Rxd2+ 38. Kxd2 Kd6 39. Ne3 g6 40. Kd3 Kc5 41. Nd5 a5 42. g3 Kb5. Maybe it is not wrong, but 42. ... g5 appears to be better and safer. 43. f4! 43. Nc7+ Kb6 44. Ne8 was also worth considering, but 谭中怡 (Tán Zhōngyí)’s choice looks more natural and principled, even if not advantageous. 43. ... Kc5 44. Ne7 Nf8

45. f5! Of course Harika would have been quite happy to answer 45. Ng8 by 45. ... Nd7. 45. ... gxf5? I guess there must have been too much pressure on Harika’s shoulders, causing her finally to commit a serious mistake. After 45. ... g5 46. Nd5 Nd7 Black should hold. 46. Nxf5 Ne6 47. Ne7 Kd6 48. Nf5+ Kc5 49. Ke3 Kb5? The last, and decisive mistake in a not easy position. 49. ... Kc6 50. Ne7+ Kd6 51. Ng8 f5! 52. exf5 Nd4 might be the less worst way to retains hopes of saving the ending a Pawn down. 50. Nd6+ Kc6 51. Ne8 a4 52. bxa4 Nc5 53. Nxf6 Nxa4 54. g4. Now White wins easily and, once resuscitated, 谭中怡 (Tán Zhōngyí) will be able to heroically stand up to her opponent till victory in the final Armageddon! 54. ... hxg4 55. h5 Nb2 56. h6 Nc4+ 57. Ke2 Nd6 58. h7 Nf7 59. Nxg4 Kd6 60. Kd3 Kc5 61. Ke3 Kd6 62. Kd2 Ke6 63. Kd3 Nh8 64. Kc4 Kf7 65. Kxb4 Kg7 66. Nxe5 Kf6 67. Nc6 Kg7 68. a4 Nf7 69. a5 Nd6 70. a6 Nc8 71. a7 Nxa7 72. Nxa7 Kxh7 73. Nc6 1 : 0.

谭中怡 (Tán Zhōngyí)
Photo © David Llada

Dronavalli Harika
Photo © David Llada

A Little Time

It’s finally Saturday, and even if Arcovazzi does not intend it, today is the day to play Fischerandom chess at Associazione Culturale “Il Delta della Luna”. So don’t miss it and please don’t say Arcovazzi I told you so!

Garfield’s mood
Illustration: Jim Davis

venerdì 24 febbraio 2017

The Fire in the Dust

Ian Aleksandrovich Nepomniachtchi – 李超 (Li Chāo)
World Chess Federation Grand Prix 2017; first stage; Sharjah, February 24, 2017
Russian Defence C42

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nxe5 d6 4. Nf3 Nxe4 5. d4 d5 6. Bd3 Bd6 7. 0-0 0-0 8. c4 c6 9. Nc3 Nxc3 10. bxc3 dxc4 11. Bxc4 Bf5 12. Bg5! Varying from round one’s game Vachier-Lagrave – 李超 (Li Chāo), Sharjah 2017 which went 12. Ne5 Bxe5 13. dxe5 Qe7 14. Re1 Nd7 15. Qf3 g6 16. Qg3 Rfe8 17. Bf4 Qc5 18. Bb3 a5 19. a4 b5 20. h4 Be6 21. Bc2 b4 22. Bd3 b3 23. h5 Nf8 24. Bh6 b2 25. Rab1 Rab8 26. Qf4 Nd7 27. Qg5 Qe7 28. Qxe7 Rxe7 29. Re2 Ree8 30. Rexb2 Rxb2 31. Rxb2 Nxe5 32. Be2 gxh5 33. f3 Nd7 34. Rb7 Nc5 35. Ra7 Nb3 36. g3 Bd5 37. Kf2 Rb8 38. Bf1 Be6 39. Bd3 Bd5 40. Bf5 Re8 41. Bc2 c5 42. Rc7 c4 43. Bf5 Rb8 44. Bd7 f6 45. Bb5 Bf7 46. Rc6 Na1 47. Ra6 Nc2 48. Rxa5 Na3 49. Bc6 Nb1 50. Rb5 1 : 0. 12. ... Qc7 13. Re1 h6 14. Nh4! Bh7 15. Bxh6! Bxh2+. If 15. ... gxh6 there might follow 16. Qg4+ Kh8 17. Nf5 Bxh2+ (clearly not 17. ... Rg8?? on account of 18. Re8+-) 18. Kh1 Bxf5 19. Qxf5 Qf4 20. Qh3 with a powerful initiative for White. 16. Kh1 Bf4. Perhaps Black should have contented himself with 16. ... gxh6 17. Qg4+ Kh8 18. Nf5 Bxf5 20. Qxf5 Qf4 21. Qh5 which leaves White a definite edge, but (maybe) less tactical sharpness.

17. Bxg7! A pretty corollary. 17. ... Kxg7 18. Qg4+ Kh8 19. Nf5 Bxf5 20. Qxf5 Qd6 21. g3! White elegantly makes room for his Rooks on the h-file. 21. ... Bh6 22. Kg2! b5 23. Bb3 Qg6 24. Qxg6 fxg6 25. Re7. Unsurprisingly, even without the Queens White’s attack proves to be irresistible. 25. ... g5 26. Re6 Kg7 27. Rh1 Rh8 28. Re7+ Kg6 29. Bc2+ 1 : 0. For if 29. ... Kh6 then 30. Rhe1 g4 31. R1e6+ Kg5 32. Rg6+ Kh5 33. Re5+ and mate next move.

Ian Aleksandrovich Nepomniachtchi
Photo © Maria Yassakova/Agon Limited

Dance of the Hours

The Will

Dronavalli Harika – 谭中怡 (Tán Zhōngyí)
Knockout Women’s World Chess Championship Tournament; match game 2; Tehran, February 24, 2017
Sicilian Defence B51

“C’mon [Dronavalli Harika]. All the best. Just play chess today & try keep the play going. You have played very well”, 15th World Chess Champion Viswanathan “Vishy” Anand solemnly wished his countrygirl, just before the game started. 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 d6 4. 0-0 Bd7 5. Re1 Nf6 6. c3 a6 7. Bc4 b5 8. Bf1 e5 9. d4. For 9. a4 b4 10. d4 cxd4 11. cxd4 Be7 12. Nbd2 exd4 13. Nb3 0-0 14. Nfxd4 d5 see Cornette – Pap, Schachbundesliga 2015-2016, Erfurt 2016. 9. ... Be7 10. d5 Na7 11. Nbd2 0-0 12. Bd3 Nc8 13. Nf1. As very usually happens, the Rossolimo Sicilian has transposed into a kind of Spanish Game. 13. ... Nb6 14. h3 Qc7 15. Ng3 a5 16. Bg5 Rfe8 17. Qc1 h6 18. Be3 c4 19. Bc2 b4. 谭中怡 (Tán Zhōngyí) prepares to sacrifice her c-Pawn for some interesting positional compensation. 20. Qd1 Reb8 21. Nd2 Nh7 22. Qe2 Rc8 23. Bxb6 Qxb6 24. Nxc4 Qc5 25. Bd3 bxc3 26. bxc3 Bg5 27. Rab1 Rab8 28. Nf1 Nf8 29. Kh2

29. ... h5? The Bishop pair and the weakness of the c3-Pawn partially compensated Black for the minus Pawn, but now 谭中怡 (Tán Zhōngyí) quite crazily decides to sacrifice another Pawn for something that does not exist. 30. Qxh5 Bf4+ 31. Kg1 Bb5? The postgirl just wants to jump in, both feet into the abyss... 32. Qe2. Simpler seems to be 32. Rxb5! Rxb5 33. g3 Bh6 34. Nxd6 Qxd6 35. Bxb5 Rxc3 36. Rb1 leaving Black in trouble two Pawns down – the analysis is by Georges Bertola from his commentary for Europe Échecs. 32. ... Bxc4 33. Rxb8 Rxb8 34. Bxc4 Qa3 35. Bb5 Qxc3 36. a4 Rc8 37. g3 Bg5 38. Ne3 Qb4. “It was probably necessary to eliminate the White Knight by 38. ... Bxe3!, in spite of the pawn minus, as the Bishops of opposite colour ending is just a chimera”, says Bertola. 39. Nc4 Nd7 40. Nxa5 Rc2 41. Qxc2 Qxe1+ 42. Kg2 Nc5. The alternative – apparently more defensible than the text – was 42. ... Qxa5 43. Bxd7 liquidating to a Queen and opposite coloured Bishops endgame two Pawns down. 43. Nc6! Bd2 44. Bd3. After 44. Nxe5! dxe5 45. Qxc5 Qxe4+ 46. f3 Qd4 47. Qxd4 exd4 48. Kf2 (Bertola’s analysis) not even the Bishops of opposite colours might have saved Black from the too many White Pawns eager to promote. 44. ... g6 45. h4 Bc3 46. Be2 Nxa4 47. Ne7+. Stockfish’s “first thought” 47. Qd3! Nc5 48. Qf3 also appears to be the best thought, carrying serious threats to the Black King. 47. ... Kf8 48. Nc8 Bd4 49. Bf3 Qb4 50. h5 gxh5?? A tremendous blunder for which no explanation is possible. 50. ... Qc5 51. Qxa4 Qxc8 was called for, and good enough to hope for a draw. 51. Qc1? Most certainly it’s a flashy blind spot, and it will not be the last one. 51. Qc7! Qd2 52. Kh3! would have led to a mating attack. 51. ... Bc5? 52. Qh6+? And now Harika misses 52. Qg5!+- Qb7 53. Qd8+ Kg7 54. Ne7 with an easy and ready win. 52. ... Ke8 53. Bxh5 Qxe4+ 54. Bf3 Qg6? Everything is mounted as a tragicomedy of mistakes. 54. ... Qd4! 55. Nxd6+ Bxd6 56. Qxd6 Nc5 would have ensured Black robust drawing chances. 55. Qh4 Kd7 56. Be4? As the show must go on, no matter that 56. Bg4+ Kc7 57. Qe7+ Kb8 58. Qd8 Kb7 59. Qd7+ Kb8 60. Ne7 was devastatingly easy. 56. ... f5 57. Ne7? Just another bid for immortality! Now White misses 57. Qe7+! Kxc8 58. Bd3! and mate in three moves. 57. ... Qf7 58. Bxf5+ Kc7 59. f3 Nb6 60. Be6 Qg7 61. Nf5 Qf8 62. Qh7+ Kb8 63. Ne7 Nc4 64. Nc6+ Ka8 65. Qg8? Now Harika makes the grand offer of exchanging Queens, and this is also the best way to offer her opponent unexpected drawing prospects... 65. ... Qxg8 66. Bxg8 Kb7 67. g4 Be3 68. Nd8+ Kc7 69. Ne6+ Kd7 70. g5 Ke7 71. Bh7 Nb6 72. g6 Nxd5? “72. ... Bh6! must lead to a draw: 73. g7 Bxg7 74. Nxg7 Nxd5 75. Nf5+ Kd7”, writes Bertola. 73. g7 Nf6 74. g8=Q Nxg8 75. Bxg8 Kd7 76. Nf8+ Kc6 77. Ng6 Bg5 78. Kh3 Kc5 79. Kg4 Bd8 80. Nf8 Ba5 81. Ne6+ Kc4 82. Kf5 Kd3 83. Ng5 Kd4 84. Ba2 Bb4 85. Ne6+ Ke3 86. Bd5 Ba5 87. Ng5 Kd4 88. Ke6 Bc7 89. Ne4 Ke3 90. Nxd6 Kf4 91. Be4 Ba5 92. Nb7 Bc3 93. Nc5 Kg5 94. Nd3 Bd2 95. Kxe5 Bc3+ 96. Ke6 Bd2 97. Bc6 Kg6 98. Ke5 Kg5 99. Ke4 Kf6 100. Nf2 Ke6 101. Bd5+ Kd6 102. Ba2 Kd7 103. Ng4 Bg5 104. Ne5+ Kc7 105. Bb3 Bh6 106. Nc4 Bg5 107. Ba4 Kd8 108. Ne3 Kc7 109. Bb5 Kd6 110. Nf5+ Kc5 111. Be8 Kb4 112. Nd4 Bh6 113. Ne2 Kc5 114. Bf7 Bg5 115. Ba2 Bh6 116. f4. Finally, Harika feels ready to demontrate the Bishop and Knight checkmate – actually just a bit too erratically. 116. ... Bxf4 117. Nxf4 Kb4 118. Kd4 Kb5 119. Bd5 Kb4 120. Bc4 Ka3 121. Nd3 Ka4 122. Kc5 Ka3 123. Be6 Ka4 124. Nb4 Ka3 125. Kc4 Kb2 126. Bg4 Kc1 127. Kc3 Kb1 128. Nc2 Ka2 129. Be6+ Kb1 130. Ne3 Ka1 131. Nc4 Kb1 132. Nd2+ Ka1 133. Nb3+ Kb1 134. Bf5+ Ka2 135. Be4 Ka3 136. Bb1 Ka4 137. Nd4 Ka5 138. Kc4 Kb6 139. Bg6 Kc7 140. Kd5 Kd7 141. Nc6 Kc7 142. Kc5 Kd7 143. Bf7 Kc8 144. Be6+ Kc7 145. Ne5 Kb7 146. Bd5+ Kc8 147. Kd6 Kd8 148. Bf7 Kc8 149. Kc6 Kd8 150. Ng6 Kc8 151. Bd5 Kd8 152. Kd6 Ke8 153. Bb3 Kd8 154. Ba4 Kc8 155. Bc6 Kd8 156. Ne5 Kc8 157. Bd7+ Kb7 158. Nc4 Ka6 159. Kc7 Ka7 160. Bb5 Ka8 161. Nb6+ Ka7 162. Nc8+ 1 : 0. All’s well that ends well. The last “gift” the Knockout pageant needed was a worldwide remake of Ushenina – Girya, Women’s Grand Prix 2013–2014, 1st stage, Genève 2013.

Dronavalli Harika vs. 谭中怡 (Tán Zhōngyí)
Photo © David Llada

A Whale Called Bice

Prémanon, France: A child runs past a sculpture of a whale’s tail during a visit to the Paul-Émile Victor Museum, devoted to the Arctic and Antarctic regions, which opened this month. Photo: Sebastien Bozon/AFP/Getty Images.

Halfway Home

Anna Muzychuk – Alexandra Konstantinovna Kosteniuk
Knockout Women’s World Chess Championship Tournament; match game 2; Tehran, February 24, 2017
Sicilian Defence B44

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. c4!? Nc6 4. d4 cxd4 5. Nxd4 Nf6 6. Nc3 Bc5!? For the more probing 6. ... Bb4 7. Nxc6 bxc6 8. Bd3 e5 9. 0-0 Bc5 see Karjakin – Grischuk, 23rd Russian Team Chess Championship, Sochi 2016. 7. Nxc6 bxc6? If Kosteniuk’s aim of revenge was actually founded on the ill-conceived text error, we cannot but conclude that, after yesterday’s débâcle, she did not believe that it was possible to hit back at the will of Caïssa. For 7. ... dxc6 8. Qxd8+ Kxd8 9. Bf4 Ke7 10. f3 Rd8 11. g4 Nd7 12. 0-0-0 e5 13. Bg3 f6 14. Be2 Nf8 15. Kb1 Ne6 16. Na4 Bd4 see A. Muzychuk – 孙翼男 (Sūn Yìnán), 16th World Youth Chess Championship Girls Under-12, Oropesa del Mar 2001. 8. e5 Ng8 9. Ne4! According to databases, this is a novelty, but only because – I guess – no one deliberately enters such a position just to lose... 9. ... Qb6. 9. ... Qa5+ 10. Bd2 Bb4 might perhaps be a bit less worse than the text. 10. Nxc5 Qxc5

11. Qd6! It certainly was not difficult to find it. Black will be left packed and inexorably undeveloped. 11. ... Qxd6 12. exd6 a5 13. b3 Nf6 14. f3 0-0 15. Be3 Ne8 16. 0-0-0 e5 17. Bd3 g6. The maybe previoulsly planned 17. ... f5 would have been effectively met by 18. Rhe1 Nxd6 19. Bc5 Rf6 20. Rxe5 Nb7 21. Re8+ Kf7 22. Rf8+ Kg6 23. Rxf6+ Kxf6 24. Bd4+ Kg6 25. g4+-, as shown by Georges Bertola in his commentary for Europe Échecs. 18. Bh6 Ng7 19. Rhe1 f6 20. f4! “Very sad position for Alexandra Kosteniuk... Her next best moves would be to propose draw and let Anna Muzychuk fly to the final”, reads the tweet of Europe Échecs, but 12th Women’s World Chess Champion quite proudly decides to drink the bitter chalice to the end. 20. ... Re8 21. fxe5 fxe5 22. Rd2 Re6 23. c5 Ba6 24. Bxa6 Rxa6 25. Bxg7 Kxg7 26. Rde2 Kf6 27. Rf1+ Kg7 28. Ref2 e4. Also 28. ... Ra7 is met by 29. Rf7+ Kh6 30. Re7. 29. Rf7+ Kh6 30. Re7 1 : 0.

Anna Muzychuk vs. Alexandra Konstantinovna Kosteniuk
Photo © David Llada

Broadcast delay

In his final appearance at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montréal, Canada, Italy’s Klaus Dibiasi, the man known as “The Chairman” of the diving board claims another Olympic gold as the upcoming Greg Louganis from the U.S. claims silver. Dibiasi won a silver medal in platform diving at the Olympic Games in 1964, and went on to win gold in the same event at the next three editions of the Games (1968, 1972, 1976). He is the only Olympic diver to have won three successive gold medals, and he is the only diver to have won medals at four editions of the Olympic Games.

The Importance of Not Being Arcovazzi’s Wife

Ho avuto
trentasei amanti
più IVA.

I’ve had
thirty-six lovers
plus tax.

Alda Merini

English translation by Susan Stewart

Artwork © dmaabsta

Miss Clarabelle Cow

Verden an der Aller, Germany: A cow is prepared for its portrait during a dairy beauty pageant. About 200 cows compete in 18 different categories. Photo: Carmen Jaspersen/AFP/Getty Images.

giovedì 23 febbraio 2017

Dancing with the Wind

Scheveningen, Netherlands: Blown away – a woman battles the wind during a stormy day at the beach. Photo: Remko de Waal/EPA.

To be, or not to be
Pope Francis meeting with the late Cuban President Fidel Castro in Havana, Cuba on September 20, 2015. Photo: Reuters.

A Fight to a Better End

Alexandra Konstantinovna Kosteniuk – Anna Muzychuk
Knockout Women’s World Chess Championship Tournament; match game 1; Tehran, February 23, 2017
French Defence C07

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 c5 4. exd5 Qxd5 5. dxc5 Nf6 6. Ngf3 Bxc5 7. Bc4 Qc6 8. Qe2 O-O 9. Nb3 Bd6 10. Nbd4!? For 10. Bg5 Nbd7 11. 0-0-0 h6 12. Nbd4 Qe4 13. Be3 Bf4 see Vallejo Pons – E. Hansen, World Rapid Chess Championship, Berlin 2015. 10. ... Qc7 11. Nb5 Qa5+ 12. Bd2 Bb4 13. c3 Be7 14. Bf4. “Kosteniuk could go 14. b4 instead of 14. Bf4 and then Bd2-f4 with pleasant advantage for White”, Grandmaster Teimour Radjabov tweeted. 14. ... a6 15. b4? A dubious intermezzo with respect to the planned 15. Nc7 Ra7 16. Nxe6! which, however, might have happened once more! 15. ... Qa4? “After 15. b4? Black could play 15. ... Bxb4! 16. cxb4 Qxb4+ 17. Bd2 Qb2! 18. 0-0 axb5 19. Rfb1 Qc2 20. Rxb5 Rd8!? for example and Black is safe and even little better”, says Radjabov. 16. Nc7 Ra7

17. Nd4? A half step. Stockfish’s attacking line 17. Nxe6! Bxe6 18. Bxe6 fxe6 19. Qxe6+ Kh8 20. Bxb8 Rxb8 21. Ne5 appears to be very promising and, from a human point of view, nearly winning. 17. ... Nc6! 18. Nc2! Making a necessity of virtue. White threatens of trapping the Black Queen by Bc4-b3. 18. ... Nb8? After very long thought, Muzychuk does not dare to play 18. ... Nxb4! 19. cxb4 Bxb4+ 20. Nxb4 (even worse would be 20. Kf1 Bc3 followed by ... b7-b5) 20. ... Qxb4+ 21. Bd2 Qd6 when Black regains the piece with an extra Pawn. 19. Nxa6! bxa6. Not 19. ... Nxa6?? 20. Bb5 winning the Black Queen. 20. Bxb8 Ra8 21. Be5 Bb7. Muzychuk is quite dramatically already short of time, and Kosteniuk attempts to exploit this element with the most “raw” possible moves. 22. Nd4 Bd5. Not 22. ... Bxg2?? 23. Rg1 Bb7 24. Qe3 with an overwhelming attack. 23. Bb3 Bxb3 24. Nxb3 Rfc8 25. 0-0 Qb5 26. Qe1. Kosteniuk boldly refuses to exchange Queens. 26. ... Rc4 27. Nd2 Rc6 28. a4 Qd3 29. Nf3 Rac8 30. Bd4 Nd7 31. Rd1 Qf5 32. Qe2 Rc4. The drama of Zeitnot. 33. Kh1. Kosteniuk will probably regret of playing a bit too much on her opponent’s lack of time. Here 33. Bc5! Bxc5 34. bxc5 Qxc5 35. Rxd7 seems to win quite easily. 33. ... R4c6 34. Rd3 g6 35. Rfd1 R6c7 36. h3 h5 37. Re3 Bf6 38. Bxf6 Nxf6 39. Nd4 Qg5 40. Rg3. Kosteniuk is happy enough with her extra Pawn, and probably wrongly she decided to delay cashing in the second one: 40. Qxa6! (20. ... Rxc3? 41. Nxe6!+-). 40. ... Qh4. Muzychuk finally reached time control, certainly not well, but still alive! 41. Nxe6! Rxc3. Not 41. ... fxe6? because of 42. Qxe6+ Kg7 43. Rd4 Ng4 44. Rd7+ Kh6 45. Rd6 Qg5 46. f4! and wins. 42. Rxc3 Rxc3 43. Nd4? After losing too much time and nerve on an almost won game, it’s understandable that Kosteniuk didn’t notice 43. Kg1! fxe6 44. Qe5!+- (44. ... Rc2 45. g3) – that’s Stockfish’s tricky stuff. 43. ... Rc8 44. Nf3 Qxb4 45. Qxa6 Qc3 46. Qb7 Re8 47. Kg1 Qc2 48. Ra1 Qc3 49. Rb1 Kg7 50. g3 Qa5 51. Rb4 Rd8 52. Qb5 Qa8 53. Qe2 Re8 54. Qd1 Ne4 55. Qd4+ Kg8 56. Ne5?? Too much concerned, or not too concerned, or not at all concerned about the threat of ... Ne4xg3, Kosteniuk seems not notice the other, more serious Black’s threat (... Ne4-g5), and makes an irreparable blunder. If nothing else, something like 56. Kh2 would have left White a not too meaningful Pawn ahead in a not so clearly winnable situation. 56. ... Ng5! Turning tables! The deadly threat is ... Re8xe5. 57. Rb3 Nxh3+ 58. Kh2 Nxf2. Again threatening ... Rxe5. 59. Qxf2 Rxe5 60. Qb2 Qxa4 61. Rf3 Qb5 62. Qc3 Re2+ 63. Kg1 Qb1+ 64. Rf1 Qb6+ 0 : 1. For after 65. Kh1 Qe6 66. Kg1 Qh3 the win is easy to demonstrate. A dramatic derby between two great Slav talents! We can be sure that the return game will be eagerly awaited.

Alexandra Konstantinovna Kosteniuk vs. Anna Muzychuk
Photo © David Llada

The Postgirl

谭中怡 (Tán Zhōngyí) – Dronavalli Harika
Knockout Women’s World Chess Championship Tournament; match game 1; Tehran, February 23, 2017
Nimzo-Indian Defence E54

1. d4 e6 2. c4 Nf6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e3 0-0 5. Bd3 c5 6. Nf3 d5 7. 0-0 cxd4 8. exd4 dxc4 9. Bxc4 b6 10. Bg5 Bb7 11. Qe2 Bxc3 12. bxc3 Nbd7 13. Bd3 Qc7 14. Rac1 Ng4. For 14. ... Rfe8 15. Rfe1 h6 16. Bd2 Rad8 see 谭中怡 (Tán Zhōngyí) – Gunina, Russia–China Match, Moscow 2016. 15. Be4 Rfe8. For 15. ... Bxe4 16. Qxe4 Ngf6 17. Qe2 Rac8 18. c4 h6 19. Bh4 Qb7 20. Rfe1 Rfe8 see Radjabov – Kramnik, World Championship Candidates, London 2013. 16. h3!? Bxe4 17. Qxe4 Ngf6 18. Qe2 Rac8 19. c4 Qb7 20. Rfe1 Qa6 21. Ne5 Nxe5

22. dxe5! The most difficult move of the game. By retaking with the Pawn, 谭中怡 (Tán Zhōngyí) shows her aggressive intentions, and thanks to some silent Rooks-and-Queen maneuvers (really in Karpov’s grand style!) she will manage to create an attack seemingly out of nothing. 22. ... Nd7 23. Qg4 Kh8 24. Qh5 Kg8 25. Qg4 Kh8 26. Re4 Qa3 27. Rd1 Nf8 28. h4 Qc3. Harika cannot yet believe that she will find herself to defend from an attack. 28. ... h6 29. Qh5 Nh7 30. Bc1 Qa4 was probably a bit sounder. 29. h5! (Δ h5-h6) 29. ... h6 30. Bh4 Rc7 31. Red4! A powerful interference by which White threatens Bh4-f6. 31. ... Qc2. In order to met 32. Bf6?? by 32. ... gxf6 33. exf6 Qh7, but... 32. R1d3! Here is another interference! 32. ... Rc5. A rejoinder that may hasten the end, but by now Black had no good moves. 33. Rg3? A half step behind. Very much stronger seems 33. Kh2! Rxe5 (what else?) 34. Rd8 Rxd8 35. Rxd8 Kg8 36. Bf6 winning immediately. 33. ... Qh7 34. Rf4 Rc7 35. Qf3 Nd7 36. Qe2 Rf8? And finally Harika cracks under the pressure and responsibility of her historical mission. Stockfish’s “best (rescue) line” 36. ... Qb1+ 37. Kh2 Qb4 38. Rxf7 Rxc4 39. Bf6 gxf6 40. Rxd7 Rh4+ 41. Rh3 Qf4+ 42. g3 Qg4 43. Qxg4 Rxg4 44. exf6 Rf8 seems instead to offer quite certain drawing chances. 37. Be7 Rg8 38. Bd6 Rcc8 39. Rxf7 Qb1+ 40. Kh2 Nc5 41. Qe3 Qh7 42. Rg6. Totally crushed! 42. ... a5 43. Be7 Rc7 44. Rxh6! 1 : 0. A fantastic game by the most veiled of the Chinese pretenders!

谭中怡 (Tán Zhōngyí) vs. Dronavalli Harika
Photo © David Llada

Anti-GPS Tracking System

London, England: The Labour party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, leaves his home in north London. Photo: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images.